The 2013 Ashes Cricket series starts on Wednesday with the first of five Tests, beginning at Trent Bridge between England and Australia. In the second of a series of articles in the run up to Wednesday, we take a look at the two Bowling sides, and opportunities within those betting markets for this eagerly anticipated series

Recommendations

Graeme Swann Top England Bowler in the Ashes Series 3/1 Bet365

Mitchell Starc Top Australia Bowler in the Ashes Series 4/1 William Hill

Over the winter the ECB ordered and paid for upgrades of the drainage systems at all English Test Grounds. Why is this significant?

Because last summer’s bad weather lost the ECB significant revenue and they wanted to improve ground infrastructures such that if play was delayed by weather it was less likely that full days play were lost (full refunds to paying customers with no play, partial refunds if less than 10 overs play in a day at Test Matches) and play would resume quicker than previously

All Test Grounds put the new systems in, and the effect has been seen this summer. Delays are shorter and in the Champions Trophy for example, played in grim weather, several games have been played where last year games would have been abandoned

This has Two effects

- drainage systems make the pitches drier, overall
- when play resumes, damp conditions are for shorter periods than previously

The effect of that is to bring spin into play with dry pitches possible even in what is another bad summer so far.

In the New Zealand Test Series the part time spinner Kane Williamson turned the ball square in the first Test at Lords on day two and raised eyebrows. Graeme Swann was a danger, and only the poor New Zealand batting meant he didn’t come into play later on, as Anderson and Broad had taken all the wickets by then.

At Headingley in the second Test, Swann took 10 wickets. In the Champions Trophy, 62 wickets fell to spin in bad weather…At Edgbaston for the semi final Mark Ramprakash said

“I have been coming to Edgbaston for 25 years and never seen a wicket like that, its like we are in Mumbai!” and this was on a wet day

At Headingley, Mike Atherton interviewed Andy Flower after the game who said

“We hoped Swann would come into play, as we wanted a dry pitch”

Looking ahead to Australia and the Ashes we have an alignment of the strategic and the tactical.

Strategically it looks as if UK pitches are drier than recent years due to the drainage

Tactically, Australia’s batting has a couple of left handers and Swann against Left handers is a real threat, as not only does he turn the ball away from the left hander but with the introduction of DRS LBW is in play in a way it never was before technology was introduced. Finally Australia may play two left arm seamers, Starc and Faulkner over the five Tests. New Zealand played three and it created a lot of rough for Swann for the right handed batsmen

If we accept there may be an alignment of the strategic and tactical in favour of Swann we have to accept the following

- Anderson is world class
- the weather may well suit new ball bowling
- Australia’s top order Clarke apart is suspect

Anderson is favourite and probably should be

Swann over the two New Zealand Tests finished one wicket short of Top English bowler, and thats in May against batsmen outclassed by Anderson/Broad.

In terms of the market there are three genuine contenders as it is likely that the fourth bowler Finn, Bresnan, Onions or Panesar will vary through the series

Anderson is 13/8 and as said above a worthy favourite. Swann at 3-1 represents a worthy alternative against the Australian batting line up given likely conditions.

For Australia, the first Test is likely to see an attack of Starc, Pattinson, Siddle and Lyon. Again this should be a three horse race, this time between the seamers. Australia do not have any spin option of the quality of Swann, Panesar or Tredwell. Nathan Lyon on the evidence of his Test Career so far is a workaday spinner, a stock bowler rather than a wicket taking threat. Siddle is the most experienced seamer but lacks recent form. Pattinson the new ball swing bowler and Starc the left armer with a lot of upside.

At the price (4/1), Mitchell Starc appeals as an alternative to the favourite Pattinson in what should be a close contest

Recommendations

Graeme Swann Top England Bowler in the Ashes Series 3/1 Bet365

Mitchell Starc Top Australia Bowler in the Ashes Series 4/1  William Hill